By MIKE DALY and PAUL SPEELMAN
LIKE some latter-day Greta Garbo, the face of Joni Mitchell stares out from the album cover, her imperious face framed under a dark fur beret and long, blonde hair swept aside, falling across a fur-caped shoulder.
And superimposed below her is that recurrent lonely two-lane highway stretching into the distance.
Hejira (Asylum 7E-1087) is the new Joni Mitchell album. The word is Arabic, for Mahomet's flight from Mecca to Medina in AD622 and the beginning of the Moslem era. The meaning: flight or exodus.
Sure enough. Joni's suffering from the old fidgety feet again. Still travelling [sic] on from one relationship to the next. But, despite her continuing lack of a distinctive melody this is a much better album than her last, The hissing of summer lawns, reviewed almost exactly a year ago.
Her songs are once more inner-directed, as opposed to the objective cynicism of "hissing", and there is a return to the warmth of her earlier work.
These days most of Joni's songs sound the same: the words separate them. However, there are some very distinctive tracks among the nine new offerings.
Amelia is inspired by famed U.S. woman aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and boasts some more of Joni's effective road imagery:
"I pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel
To shower off my dust,
And I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust.
I dreamed of 747s
Over geometric frames.
Dreams, Amelia, dreams and false alarms."
Furry sings the blues describes her visit to ancient bluesman Furry Lewis, in Memphis, Tennessee - home of the blues. Joni's vocals are enhanced by the plaintive harmonica of old friend Neil Young, and by the wonderfully expressive electric bass of Jaco Pastorius.
Jaco, currently with Weather Report, almost plays lead on all his four tracks on Joni's album. His tone and style is much like German bassist Eberhard Weber, but more fluent.
The third track we'd select would be Blue Motel Room, for its slow blues feel and Joni's welcome change of vocal style.
Hejira, a far from memorable album, is a welcome return to the old Joni Mitchell of the strong, warm lyrics and a move further away from the Tom Scott influence (Although he does pipe up on one track, Refuge of the roads).
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